Evolution, Morality, Ethics and the Naturalistic Fallacy
#1
This discussion is from the Nirmukta facebook group. I'm pasting it instead of posting a screenshot.

Ajita Kamal
A note to those who invoke evolutionary biology in conversations about ethics involving moral premises. Please read up on the naturalistic fallacy. There are countless moral stances that we all hold that are in opposition to our basal evolutionary impulses that evolved during the Pleistocene. When you invoke evolutionary biology to justify moral premises, you are just rationalizing your own values. As Dawkins has pointed out multiple times since his book 'The Selfish Gene' was published and roundly misunderstood and misused by both right-wing and leftist idealists, evolution only describes things as they happen, not as they SHOULD be in moral terms.
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Nishchal Hansi, Dolly S Koshy, Gayathri Iyer and 4 others like this.

Suraj AB Morality is a function of the zeitgeist. Simple.
13 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Vivek Koppikar ‎^True..alongside ethic, politic, spirit, cultural aura and things
13 hours ago · Unlike · 2 people

Alexander Safir ‎-
...morality is also negotiation; and one's ability and desire to conform to a particular standard which confers membership to a group, an expression of one's status.

As long as we're weighing in. ;)
13 hours ago · Unlike · 3 people

Vivek Koppikar ‎||"evolution only describes things as they happen, not as they SHOULD be in moral terms"|| as clear as it gets. Teeth evolved ... used for defense, offense, digestion, sex appeal, and many things
13 hours ago · Unlike · 1 person

Vivek Koppikar Alexander that is a great quote!
13 hours ago · Like

Vivek Koppikar By that standard, what I may think of as an immoral act might be considered moral elsewhere or elsewhen. Which in my opinion is just the way it is.
13 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Ganesh Veluswami Surely, the Fight or Flight reaction that helped id in the Pleistocene era will be an impediment in todays world. Imagine when your boss is firing you...
Surely, we all have EVOLVED beyond those baser instincts to live cordially in a civilized society.
12 hours ago via Facebook Mobile · Unlike · 1 person
Ajita Kamal Ganesh, in your last statement you are deliberately conflating biological evolution with moral/ethical evolution.
12 hours ago · Like

Vivek Koppikar Good catch...
12 hours ago · Like
Ajita Kamal The key point to note is that in many situations actions/behaviors that can be evolutionarily advantageous to an individual may be considered immoral by that individual and/or by the society that s/he lives in.
12 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Ganesh Veluswami Thanks Ajita. I see I've so much more to learn.
I was under the impression that the latter follows after the former has laid the foundation and then both proceed simultaneously. In short, I was under the impression, they ain't independent of each other. My bad.
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Vivek Koppikar Sounds accurate, but I don't seem to be able to think of an example.
12 hours ago · Like
Ajita Kamal Most of those things would still be considered immoral even if there are no negative social consequences.
Vivek, here's an example.
Say you are in a position to cheat on your spouse, and no one will know. You can have a love-child, spreading your genes, and no one will know. The cheating on your spouse would be considered immoral even though it would be evolutionarily advantageous.
12 hours ago · Like · 2 people

Ganesh Veluswami ‎^ Isn't rape one such example?
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Ajita Kamal Yes Ganesh, rape is a brilliant example.
12 hours ago · Like

Vivek Koppikar Yep, I was about to cite someone with high libido hooking every chick he sees
12 hours ago · Like
Ajita Kamal Recently a researcher, an evolutionary psychologist, published a paper on how rape may have been adaptive in primitive humans (and even before our ancestors were humans). By no stretch of conventional moral reasoning can rape be considered moral. The inclusion of moral premises- values shaped by our subjective experiences- dictates that rape is one of the most vile of human behaviors.
12 hours ago · Like · 1 person
Ajita Kamal Just fyi guys, I actually studied evolutionary biology under some of the most accomplished scientists in the US. I dropped out of the PhD program after my core courses and went for a job, but not before gaining a fairly good understanding of population genetics, evo-devo, speciation, macro evolution etc... In retrospect, those classes taught me about how brutal evolution (and nature as a whole) is, and how far we've come in honing our sympathies and rejecting our baser tendencies!
12 hours ago · Like · 3 people

Vivek Koppikar ‎||"how far we've come in honing our sympathies and rejecting our baser tendencies!"|| Yes... and a great example is the use of condoms... regarding conscious rejection our basic tendencies
12 hours ago · Unlike · 2 people

Vivek Koppikar ‎||"classes taught me about how brutal evolution"|| beg to differ .... I would use the term "pitilessly indifferent" instead of "Brutal"
12 hours ago · Unlike · 2 people

Vivek Koppikar Being brutal implies conscious directionality
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Ajita Kamal Yup. The thing is, the human brain is very adaptive. Culture shapes us a lot more than we give it credit for. Culture is the difference between a primitive caveman whose idea of sex was clubbing a female, and a civilized man today (at least superficially). But sometimes I feel that we would still be cavemen if not for the women of the species (jk).
12 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Arjun Ishwar ‎Ajita Kamal Really? I am planning to apply to a grad program! Can you give me some suggestions? I already have grad courses in population genetics , and evolution, microbial evolution, and a publication on algal evolution under my belt. Any help would be greatly appreciated
12 hours ago · Like
Ajita Kamal Sure man, what do you need to know? Its been a few years for me though. Send me a pm.
12 hours ago · Like

Ankur Ravinarayana Chakravarthy Even if we were to assume that evolution is prescriptive, which it isn't, it would still run into the is-ought problem eventually.
11 hours ago · Unlike · 1 person

Lalit Mohan Chawla ‎Ajita Kamal
"Most of those things would still be considered immoral even if there are no negative social consequences.
Vivek, here's an example.
Say you are in a position to cheat on your spouse, and no one will know. You can have a love-child, spreading your genes, and no one will know. The cheating on your spouse would be considered immoral even though it would be evolutionarily advantageous."
didn't get you, are you implying that finding immoral the act of cheating on spouse a social construct rather than outcome of evolution because
cheating is actually advantageous
when we say "The cheating on your spouse would be considered immoral even though it would be evolutionary advantageous."
shouldn't we consider that it is also actually advantageous to find such acts immoral , it is advantageous to feel guilt after cheating when we are talking about individual-selection vs. group-selection,

that said i am pretty much in agreement against natural fallacy and think that it is a cause of much confusion ,
3 hours ago · Like
Ajita Kamal If you can get away with having a secret love-child, it is evolutionarily advantageous to the individual, period. Group selection theory is very complicated and highly misunderstood, and involves many levels of selection. The evolutionary advantage to the individual, in all types of selection criteria, is calculated by measuring fitness (a population genetics term) of the individual. Guilt can help the group evolutionarily, but IN THIS CASE not without conferring an evolutionary cost to the individual.
The truth is, evolutionary psychology is a very shaky science. The key here is that moral values are being shaped by cultural evolution in addition to being determined in major part by our biology, and these translate to social behaviors that in turn affect our biological evolution. Its a feedback loop- the co-evolution of biology and culture. We humans are rather unique in this regard (there is very little cultural evolution in other intelligent social animals such as chimps and dolphins, culture defined as horizontal non-genetic transfer of information between individuals).
You're right that the reason why we think of cheating as immoral is because being honest is advantages to the group (even though it may be disadvantageous to the individual), and that is exactly what morality is about. But we (most of us, at least) are taught to feel guilty about cheating by parents and society. In addition, there are other reasons why we don't cheat, such as love. We choose to be decent people, even at an evolutionary cost. Biologically altruism is explained by evolutionary advantage to the group (and, indirectly, to the individual). But behaviorally, we are altruistic not because we expect something in return, but because it's the right thing to do.

Eusocial animals like bees and ants have very rigid policing systems in place to prevent cheating, but these systems do not involve value-based moral emotions such as love and guilt (of course). They involve genetically predetermined chemical intermediation of behavior, such as workers that tear apart those females that lay eggs when the most advantageous set-up for the entire hive is for the queen to lay eggs (sisters are less related to each other than to the queen, thereby making it more genetically advantageous for each worker bee when the queen lays eggs than when their sisters do).
about an hour ago · Like
Ajita Kamal Consider this scenario. You see a dog hit by a car, and go out of your way to help it, taking care of it in your house till it gets better, spending your time and money. Your resources are being "wasted" on the dog. People who do not feel the emotions that you do may make more money and more connection with other people during all that time that you're spending with the dog, increasing their fitness and fecundity (another population genetics term). But it can be argued that you are the more moral one of the two, given certain moral premises. (Of course, given certain other moral premises, the other person may be more moral, since that person may be taking care of injured children in a hospital, etc) There are always moral premises. This is the key thing to remember when discussing ethics.
about an hour ago · Like

Lalit Mohan Chawla ‎"Most of those things would still be considered immoral even if there are no negative social consequences...(adultery)"
my point is that i don't think the adultery example satisfies this since we do agree that it would have negative social consequences to live with idea that adultery is moral , we can make it sound that it is not by particular cases such as a secret love child but i don't think short leash control would work that way ,

in the dog example "You see a dog hit by a car, and go out of your way to help it, taking care of it in your house till it gets better, spending your time and money. Your resources are being "wasted" on the dog. "

let me make it more explicit , a person trying to save his child which in reality is not his child at all and getting crippled for life , success in saving neither helped in gene propagation nor in monetary benefit but , the urge to save the child did not have any advantage(in this case) but it is the presence of the urge that has in many other cases such as saving actual child , it is the urge to save fellow animals specially the cute looking ones that causes the action of saving the dog
26 minutes ago · Like

Rakshi --- Shall we shift this to the forums, please? Very important discussion, and runs the risk of getting lost in the annals of FB 'unarchives. '
23 minutes ago · Like · 2 people
Ajita Kamal ‎"my point is that i don't think the adultery example satisfies this since we do agree that it would have negative social consequences to live with idea that adultery is moral"

But why do we decide that adultery is immoral? Is it because of negative biological consequences? This is why I presented a hypothetical case of adultery where there are NO negative consequences. Most people would still consider it immoral.

"it is the urge to save fellow animals specially the cute looking ones that causes the action of saving the dog"

And that urge is a moral one informed by subjective values.
19 minutes ago · Like
Ajita Kamal The urge to save a cute animal may have evolutionary biological roots, and may translate to biological benefits in certain situations, but saving a cute animal is not always necessarily biologically advantageous, and even when it is not advantageous, it can be moral.
15 minutes ago · Like
Ajita Kamal The point about altruism is buried in one of my comments. Let me pull it out.
Biologically altruism evolved to benefit individuals and groups- that is, it is actually self-serving. But morally, altruism is selfless from the behavioral point o f view.

We often argue that being good just because one expects rewards from god is not morality at all. Morality is being good for goodness sake. It is being good because it is the right thing to do.
12 minutes ago · Like

Rakshi --- ‎Ajita Kamal: Forums, please.
11 minutes ago · Like
Ajita Kamal Sure, Rakshi smile
11 minutes ago · Like · 1 person

Ganesh Veluswami Hey Rakshi, ain't you an admin too? Can't you move it to the forums too? Just wondering.
10 minutes ago · Like
Lalit Mohan Chawla ‎"But why do we decide that adultery is immoral? Is it because of negative biological consequences? This is why I presented a hypothetical case of adultery where there are NO negative consequences. Most people would still consider it immoral."

i "helplessly" find it immoral even when i am trying to get in terms as to override and not find it immoral

"This is why I presented a hypothetical case of adultery where there are NO negative "
"The urge to save a cute animal may have evolutionary biological roots, and may translate to biological benefits in certain situations, but saving a cute animal is not always necessarily biologically advantageous, and even when it is not advantageous, it can be moral."
let me present my problem this way
i find it gross: eating a candy bar placed in a insulated piece of plastic placed in shit , later candy bar is extracted , opened with gloved hands and presented to me completely free from shit , i will still find it gross despite my knowledge that it is completely hygenic and healthy to it , this is because of the short leash control of finding anything that comes from gross shit to be gross that i find it "helplessly gross"

the same way i find it "helpessly immoral" the act of adultery besides you presenting a case and my own desire to not find adultery healthy
9 minutes ago · Like
Lalit Mohan Chawla ‎*adultery immoral
8 minutes ago · Like
Lalit Mohan Chawla ‎*adultery immoral not healthy
8 minutes ago · Like
Lalit Mohan Chawla no let ajita do the archiving since he won't have word limit proeblem
7 minutes ago · Like
Ajita Kamal ‎"i "helplessly" find it immoral even when i am trying to get in terms as to override and not find it immoral "
I agree. But it is not just biology that makes you feel that way. It is also cultural conditioning- Moral education. What we have developed over thousands of years of culture. Remember the caveman example from above? Very few cavemen would have found adultery immoral, helplessly or otherwise smile

The shit candy example targets a more basal instinct, and is not exactly related to moral values, although you are right to bring it up, since it is about values in general. But the same logic would apply in such cases also, if there is sufficient conditioning in culture..

OK, Rakshi, moving to forums now!
3 minutes ago · Like
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
Quote:Ajita Kamal The point about altruism is buried in one of my comments. Let me pull it out.
Biologically altruism evolved to benefit individuals and groups- that is, it is actually self-serving. But morally, altruism is selfless from the behavioral point o f view.

We often argue that being good just because one expects rewards from god is not morality at all. Morality is being good for goodness sake. It is being good because it is the right thing to do.
are there examples of people doing good for goodness sake rather than 1) driven by the action-reward wiring that rewards altruistic acts such as helping a beggar , 2)intent to prove that purely altruistic behavior exists

regarding the point from where i started it i feel that adultery example does not satisfy that
Quote:Most of those things would still be considered immoral even if there are no negative social consequences


Quote:This is why I presented a hypothetical case of adultery where there are NO negative consequences. Most people would still consider it immoral.
i gave a case of finding eating of candy bar gross even when there are NO negative consequences of eating it but to relate it to morality let me try this way , we would find a person killing another one brutally even when we know perfectly that it is a scripted act for a movie , some more sensitive might even cry , abuse the murderer

my point is that it is the trait of finding condemn -worthy acts such as these immoral that is selected rather than particular cases , so even when a hypothetical case(secret love child) where there there are no negative consequences of adultery , my point is that there still are/had been negative consequences(to society) of the trait of not finding or so as to say positive consequences of finding adultery immoral ,


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#3
A thought experiment.

Say Zeus is stranded on an island with 2 people, and there is a limited amount of food. Help is arriving, but it will be a while. Zeus's chances of survival are 90% if he kills the other two, which he can because he is stronger than them. If he doesn't, his chances are 65%. No risk of being caught if he kills them. He is a sociopath, and doesn't have any qualms about taking a life.

Would he kill the other two?
If he does, would you say that his decision to kill the other two is moral?
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#4
Quote:"are there examples of people doing good for goodness sake rather than 1) driven by the action-reward wiring that rewards altruistic acts such as helping a beggar , 2)intent to prove that purely altruistic behavior exists"

I think you misunderstood the distinction I made between biological altruism and ethical altruism. ALL altruistic acts are "driven by the action-reward wiring", since that wiring is biologically programmed by evolution. But the programming interface does not (always) say "Reward can be picked up here if you do good", but rather "Do good for the sake of doing good and don't expect anything in return". If you expect something in return, you are not being self-less. Ayn Rand will say that there is nothing wrong in expecting something in return, but that's her moral premise. Most progressive altruists would disagree, because of their moral premises.

Quote:"we would find a person killing another one brutally even when we know perfectly that it is a scripted act for a movie , some more sensitive might even cry , abuse the murderer"

True. Lalit, no one is denying that we evolved morality. What is being argued is that what is moral is not the same thing as what is evolutionarily advantageous to the individual. What is moral is frequently at odds with what is advantageous to the individual. That is a product of ethical reasoning and cultural upbringing, interacting and shaping our subjective perceptions.

Quote:"my point is that there still are/had been negative consequences(to society) of the trait of not finding or so as to say positive consequences of finding adultery immoral"

Do you make moral decisions by calculating these negative consequences to society? Even when you say "negative consequences", what do you mean? Evolutionarily speaking? Because even if you do calculate evolutionary consequences for society that result from acts of adultery (or refraining from it) there are moral premises involved in positing that those evolutionary consequences are relevant to you.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#5
why the thought experiment am i missing the point way badly? (edit-this was before i read the second reply Sweatdrop )
since you say he is a sociopath i have difficulty in predicting what he will do but most experiments do not ask that, i suppose they go like what would you do ? or what would be the morally right thing to do ? clearly both will be different answers but people mostly answer the same since they wish to retain that they are moral , if you ask me i'd kill , what would be moral ?, not killing,,i'd try to fool myself in finding it moral so that i find killing easier, i am pretty sure in honest replies not killing would be chosen as the moral option, in fact "killing" word immediately triggers the not moral response as demonstrated by various experiments(will post link here) in an option of choosing to either to choose reject a vaccine repondants choose to accept vaccine for public even if it have say 30(accurate data to be added later)
percent chance of saving lives while reject if the question is rephrased to say accepting has 70% chance of killing the'd say no , even though both questions remain same
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#6
(14-Jul-2011, 09:39 PM)lalitmohanchawla Wrote: why the thought experiment am i missing the point way badly?

Huh
Its just a thought experiment, nothing more.

Quote:since you say he is a sociopath i have difficulty in predicting what he will do but most experiments do not ask that, i suppose they go like what would you do ? or what would be the morally right thing to do ?

The fact that he is a sociopath is to point out that he would have no qualms about killing. That's all.

Quote:i am pretty sure in honest replies not killing would be chosen as the moral option, in fact "killing" word immediately triggers the not moral response as demonstrated by various experiments(will post link here) in an option of choosing to either to choose reject a vaccine repondants choose to accept vaccine for public even if it have say 30(accurate data to be added later)
percent chance of saving lives while reject if the question is rephrased to say accepting has 70% chance of killing the'd say no , even though both questions remain same

I think my point has been lost now. The point I've been arguing is that what is moral is not necessarily what is evolutionarily advantageous. That is all! It is clearly evolutionarily advantageous for Zeus to kill in the scenario given. Yet most people would agree that it is not moral. This is because of our moral premises (I know, we evolved the tendency to think that killing is immoral because society benefits from it, but that is not the point I'm making).

Now apply this to the adultery scenario. I would not commit adultery even if I never get caught and it would be evolutionarily advantageous, because it is against my moral principles. The fact that today's society considers adultery immoral, and that it would be a disadvantage to society as a whole, is beside the point. It only adds to the fact that I am doing the right thing (as per my moral premises) despite the fact that there is evolutionary advantage to me in committing adultery.

BTW, I wasn't originally talking about adultery in general. I was talking about a specific type of adultery that involves cheating on my spouse. That's what I am talking about above as well.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#7
Quote:The point I've been arguing is that what is moral is not necessarily what is evolutionarily advantageous.
(to an individual?) yes ofcourse i was never arguing that , i was arguing the quote
Quote:
Most of those things would still be considered immoral even if there are no negative social consequences.
Vivek, here's an example.
Say you are in a position to cheat on your spouse, and no one will know. You can have a love-child, spreading your genes, and no one will know. The cheating on your spouse would be considered immoral even though it would be evolutionarily advantageous.

anyways
Quote:The fact that today's society considers adultery immoral, and that it would be a disadvantage to society as a whole, is beside the point.
Quote:BTW, I wasn't originally talking about adultery in general. I was talking about a specific type of adultery that involves cheating on my spouse. That's what I am talking about above as well.
Quote:It only adds to the fact that I am doing the right thing (as per my moral premises) despite the fact that there is evolutionary advantage to me in committing adultery.
well won't have anything to discuss then , you are doing the right thing as per your moral premises no doubts there. later...



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#8
Ah, ok I see the confusion. Yes, I was talking about evolutionary advantage to the individual in the context. I was talking about the individual having a secret love-child as a result of the extra-marital affair. It is the individual's fitness that benefits when an individual cheats on his (in this case it is a man) spouse, and indirectly on society in general.

The contrast I presented between human altruism and altruism in Eusocial bees is a really cool way of analyzing how morality works. The commonality is that in both cases natural selection favored the evolution of the altruistic behaviors. The difference is that in the case of humans various complex emotional traits serve to mediate the altruistic behavior, and these traits are both genetically as well as culturally determined in adult humans.

As I said before, altruism evolved because it was beneficial to both the individual as well as to groups (those are not always mutually exclusive, but sometimes they are- there is a back and forth between cheaters and policing in any altruistic system). Experiments have demonstrated that the numbers of cheaters and police (police here is those individuals who bring the cheaters in line- in the case of eusocial insects, it involves attacking sister bees that cheat by laying eggs, as I mentioned on FB) balance each other. As the number of cheaters increase, policing also increases, and as the policing reaches a certain threshold, cheaters decrease.

The difference is that in humans what has been colloquially referred to as altruism is not the same thing as biological altruism (objectivists often deliberately conflate the two, despite the fact that emotional altruism -what has always been referred to as altruism, before the term was adopted by biologists when the evolutionary mechanisms were discovered by evolutionary ecologists such as E.O. Wilson- is how we actually deal with each other, conferring on us that quality we value as "moral good"). We do not decide what is ethical based on consciously and deliberately calculating biologically altruistic benefits to ourselves, such as reciprocity etc. If someone did that, we (most of us) would call them "calculating" and "selfish", not altruistic, self-less and "good" in the social, cultural and moral sense.

Some rationalists make the mistake of thinking that emotions are just weaknesses and a bad thing, forgetting that emotions are also what make us human in the first place. Of course, emotional expressions of morality are often easily outclassed in ethical discussions, because those emotions evolved when we humans lived in small groups competing with each other (within groups and between individuals) in response to selection criteria that was important in primitive times. For example, we tend to be more concerned about people who are geographically (and of course genetically) closer to us. There are good evolutionary reasons why we feel this way (usually) and these reasons are often still relevant even today. But the important point is that there is a strong cultural component to mediation of altruism in humans, and this cultural component is both reason-based and involves moral premises.

That brings me to moral premises, the point that I always return to in such discussions. They exist. The fact that we are thinking organisms with a culturally enforced, emotionally mediated morality dictates that there will always be moral premises. Even if you say that evolutionary benefits are the sole criteria that must determine what is moral, you are making that assertion given your particular moral premises. The reason why I talk about moral premises is because a vast majority of disagreement between people on ethical issues arises because of disagreement on the moral premises, and when people skip the conversation on moral premises, they are bound to be at odds with each other in their conclusions about what is moral and good. Moral premises are informed by reason (factual information gained from science is very important in informing our premises). But there is a subjective component to them as well- a component that is related to our individual biology, informed by our individual experiences growing up.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#9
This extract from Prof. Dawkins' documentary 'The Fifth Ape', which I transcribed on hearing the first time simply because I found it so compelling is itself an illustration of how 'moral premises' are inescapable in any discussion on morality. The parts which I have marked in bold below, amount to an acknowledgment of the need for human-made moral premises which don't directly or obviously follow from the biology of the situation.

Quote:The joy of being conscious human beings is that we rise above our origins.
Our misfiring selfish genes mean that we do not ape the nastiness of our nature,but extract ourselves from it and live by our values.As Darwin recognized, we humans are the first and only species able to escape the brutal force that created us: Natural selection. "We civilized men do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. We institute poor laws and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of everyone to the last moment."

A society run on crude Darwinian lines will be a ruthless, merciless place. Fortunately, Natural Selection gave us big brains. With those big brains we can plan a gentler society, the sort of society in which we would want to live.

Evolution has no purpose. There is no benevolence there, no forward planning.Some people find that disturbing, but there is a better way to think about it. We alone on earth have evolved to the extraordinary point where we can understand the selfish genes that shaped us. They are not models for how to behave, but the opposite. Because we are conscious of these forces we can work towards taming them through kindness and morality, modern medicine and charity, even paying our taxes. We can overthrow the tyranny of Natural Selection. Our evolved brains empower us to rebel against our selfish genes.

In a manner of speaking, Prof. Dawkins' observations may seem 'natural' to us (and indeed they are made in a naturalistic framework) but they do not follow from the 'Laws of Nature' and have no real grounds but our moral premises.
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#10
The ending words of selfish gene, actually inspired another book the robot's rebellion, also in the last part of this documentary,the fifth ape dawkin talks about rebelling against our genes, i recently finished reading the robot's rebellion, have you all read it?,if not it is worth a read but some parts of it are pretty controversial which is why i post here, and i can mail you the PDF
Regarding some recent discussion the book explains the case for
Quote:What is moral is frequently at odds with what is advantageous to the individual. That is a product of ethical reasoning and cultural upbringing, interacting and shaping our subjective perceptions.
, here is a picture from the book ,
[Image: 1263gqr.jpg]
here's further on system 1 and 2
[Image: 2vwb68j.png]
Quote:The difference is that in humans what has been colloquially referred to as altruism is not the same thing as biological altruism (objectivists often deliberately conflate the two, despite the fact that emotional altruism -what has always been referred to as altruism, before the term was adopted by biologists when the evolutionary mechanisms were discovered by evolutionary ecologists such as E.O. Wilson- is how we actually deal with each other, conferring on us that quality we value as "moral good"). We do not decide what is ethical based on consciously and deliberately calculating biologically altruistic benefits to ourselves, such as reciprocity etc. If someone did that, we (most of us) would call them "calculating" and "selfish", not altruistic, self-less and "good" in the social, cultural and moral sense.
Some rationalists make the mistake of thinking that emotions are just weaknesses and a bad thing, forgetting that emotions are also what make us human in the first place. Of course, emotional expressions of morality are often easily outclassed in ethical discussions, because those emotions evolved when we humans lived in small groups competing with each other (within groups and between individuals) in response to selection criteria that was important in primitive times. For example, we tend to be more concerned about people who are geographically (and of course genetically) closer to us. There are good evolutionary reasons why we feel this way (usually) and these reasons are often still relevant even today. But the important point is that there is a strong cultural component to mediation of altruism in humans, and this cultural component is both reason-based and involves moral premises.
could we say, most of our altruistic behavior may be attributed to system 1 which can be viewed as colloquially altruistic and also biological altruism, but in case of system 2,we do not decide what is ethical based on consciously and deliberately calculating biologically altruistic benefits to ourselves, such as reciprocity etc, but because it "was the right thing to do",
Quote:We choose to be decent people, even at an evolutionary cost. Biologically altruism is explained by evolutionary advantage to the group (and, indirectly, to the individual). But behaviorally, we are altruistic not(necessarily) because we expect something in return, but because it's the right thing to do.
, here we "choose" to be altruistic , of course a choice is always made, but here since choice has been made by system 2, we can say that choice has been consciously made,based on ofcourse our cultural upbringing, our moral premises,
but i have another question could it be that many a times choice is not made even in second case,i mean in many cases it could be that "doing that thing" is just a successful meme, in that case it would not be much different from biological altruism (in case of conscious choice not talking about evolutionary advantage)
[Image: 29et9vt.png]

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#11
(16-Jul-2011, 07:04 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: In a manner of speaking, Prof. Dawkins' observations may seem 'natural' to us (and indeed they are made in a naturalistic framework) but they do not follow from the 'Laws of Nature' and have no real grounds but our moral premises.

A recent RSA lecture clearly makes the point about how the ethical case for altruism, though facilitated by biology is not dictated by it, and needs grounding in moral premises.

In 'The Price of Altruism', Owen Harman explains efforts to resolve the 'riddle of altruism' and introduces the work of the troubled genius of George Price. A quick summary of the talk follows

Key questions:
- How can we explain the persistence of traits that reduce fitness if evolution is a game of survival?
- Is there such a thing as genuine altruism besides disguised self-interest?

Key points:
- 'Altruism'-like behaviors are observed in primitive life-forms: social amoeba, yellow jewelweed
- 'Biological altruism' is judged by the consequences of the action. 'Psychological altruism' is evaluated based on the intention behind the action. An evolutionary process connects the two.
- Three proposed explanations for altruism: (i)Nepotism (ii)Reciprocity (iii)Group-selection.
- Contributions of George Price : (i) formalization of the dynamics of natural selection (ii) game-theoretic analyses of animal behavior
- "Wittgenstein's Wall" between evolution and ethics: Biology is not destiny. It is capacity. It neither precludes nor destines either altruism or aggression. The choice between altruism and aggression is therefore not a biological question, but a philosophical one.


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#12
Quote:For example, we tend to be more concerned about people who are geographically (and of course genetically) closer to us. There are good evolutionary reasons why we feel this way (usually) and these reasons are often still relevant even today. But the important point is that there is a strong cultural component to mediation of altruism in humans, and this cultural component is both reason-based and involves moral premises.

:- This should be the case when we think naturally. But most express mercy/concern seeing troubles they witness for e.g. See on TV the troubled african nations and their plight stuck with famine and few also donate money. But we fail to connect it to our own villages which are still lacking fundamental needs.[Roti kapda and makan]. This village could be the one that we often visited in our child hood.

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